What's the better, the safety of a marina or the freedom of a mooring? This week our blogging GP Jonty Pearce decides
When we first bought a yacht one of the major decisions facing us was where to berth her. We live nearly as far from the sea as is possible in the UK but, as the Indoor Dragon emanates from Wales, the options were somewhat narrowed. Pembrokeshire very soon became our chosen location despite the consequent three hour drive. With the locale decided, the next issue was whether we went for the secure expense of a marina berth or the vulnerability of a less costly swinging mooring.
Despite Milford Haven enjoying superb shelter, even the upper reaches suffer their share of inclement weather; from some directions the wind can really blast along the waterway. A few years back a gale worried a furling genoa free and reduced it to shreds. Even a few miles upriver the powerful Bristol Channel tides swirl and sweep, their huge range inducing fast streams that leave the yachts undecided whether they should lie to wind or tide. Don’t get me wrong – there are many sheltered nooks and crannies – Black Tar, Lawrenny, Rudders Boatyard, Pembroke Dock, East Angle, and Dale to name but a few – but, as ever, none are completely sheltered from all directions.
Living so far away from Pembrokeshire the idea of inflating and launching a tender on a near midnight arrival to transport our weary bodies, kit, cat, and food in a choppy breeze failed to enthrall us. Inevitably at times we would encounter horizontal rain on a pitch black Friday night and the idea of rowing out against the current when the outboard failed to fire did not fill me with joy. The need for a large holding tank, wind generators and solar panels, and worries about mooring line chafe and failure or dragging of the mooring itself all were detractors. Whilst the relative peace and potential abundance of wildlife were plus points, the lack of water on a pontoon just by the boat would require care to make sure the tanks were regularly topped up. A great benefit would be the all tide access – several marinas or parts thereof are restricted by a cill or lock gate that diminishes access time, yet on a mooring departure and arrival times would be unlimited by the tidal state.
We ended up in the upper basin of Neyland Yacht Haven. We do have to be very conscious of the tidal heights and depth over the cill – we can only access our berth three hours either side of high water – but the availability of shore power, water on the pontoons, showers and toilets at the end of the gangway, and a friendly cafe serving excellent breakfasts ended up as a no-brainer decision that we have not regretted in nine years. The convenient chandlery run by the lovely Mrs Haynes, undoubtedly the oldest chandleress in the UK, is an added benefit. We have made many new friends and pontoon gossip has become a major part of our sailing life. Whilst we pay over £2000 a year, it is worth it for the reassurance of having Aurial safely tucked up in the best hurricane hole on the Haven. When the wind whistles round the eaves of our Malvern home I sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that she is regularly checked and that I would be informed of any problems. When arriving in the dark hours of Friday night after a long day at work the trolley trundle to the berth poses no threat – we are swiftly ensconced, coffee in one hand and whisky in the other, safe and cozy in our floating country cottage. Cheers!